THIEVES LIKE US: I’m out of here for a week, so here are a few picks to click to tide you over till I get back. Top of the pile is the Showcase premiere of The Riches, a new series that recently debuted on the FX Network in the U.S., also know as the Poor Man’s HBO. It stars Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as the pater and mater of a family of Travellers, the semi-mythical gypsy conmen who occasionally appear in the pages of overheated Southern fiction and British films such as Snatch.
In the pilot episode, playing at 10pm on Wednesday, we’re introduced to Izzard’s Wayne as he flamboyantly assumes the identity of a missing man at the reunion of some anonymous high school’s Class of ’81, brazening his way into the confidence of his fellow “classmates” while two of his children – Di Di (Shannon Marie Woodward) and the cross-dressing pre-teen Sam (Aidan Mitchell) pick their pockets, while older son Cael (Noel Fisher) waits outside with their RV. Next day, they’re on the way to pick up Dahlia (Driver) on her release from prison, a scene that’s only enhanced by the sight of Driver in beaded cornrows. The balance of the debut episode shows the family running afoul of their clan at a family reunion before going on the run and assuming the identity of a dead couple, taking over their house and life in a wealthy gated community outside Baton Rouge.
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If you’re a fan of Izzard or Driver, you won’t be disappointed – they’re the motor of the series, especially Izzard, who seems to be improvising many of the key scenes where he’s struggling to (literally) fill the shoes of the apparently shady corporate lawyer he’s impersonating. Watching the first three episodes, it feels like creator Dmitry Lipkin put most of his work into setting up the premise, after which the family of grifters are set loose in a rather broad parody of an affluent red-state suburb.
The whole show can be boiled down to a single line by Izzard in the pilot, as he tries to sell his family on putting down roots for the first time in generations, never mind their own lives: “The American Dream, Cael ... we’re gonna steal her.” There are plenty of subplots and mysteries waiting in the wings for future episodes of the show’s 13-episode first season, and even if I weren’t curious about what might be churning up out of the past that the deceased Riches were trying to hard to escape, I’d want to watch the show for Izzard and Driver alone.
A PICK AND A CHANCE: Set your PVR for TVO at the same time Wednesday to catch Last Call At The Gladstone, a documentary on the five tumultuous years that saw the Gladstone Hotel on Queen change from a decaying fleabag to an artsy boutique hotel. They could have called the film Gentrification Follies, as there’s more than enough of the former in evidence. Budding entrepreneurs will also want to be in the Atrium of the CBC’s Toronto HQ tomorrow from 11am to 5pm to try out for the next season of Dragon’s Den, the network’s business reality competition show. More details at www.cbc.ca/dragonsden.